The Arab media dictatorship was destroyed by al-Jazeera, which has shown that the Arab world can be more than the subject of the news—it can be the source. Further, Saudi- born, Arab-speaking British journalist Hugh Miles's new chronicle of the birth and growth of al-Jazeera (“the peninsula”) also shows the strengths and weaknesses worldwide of what is called “citizen journalism.”
Through a network of volunteers as well as professional staffers, and a mix of factual reporting and commentary espousing unbelievable theories of blame about problems in the region, al-Jazeera has built an audience of fifty million viewers since its 1996 launch. It has changed broadcast journalism in and about the Middle East.
More than 100 employees left a shuttered effort by Orbit, the BBC's Saudi partner, to start a new channel in Qatar ten years ago. With a loan of $100 million from the Qatari government, al-Jazeera struggled until the Intifada in 2000 and the 9/11 attacks in 2001—plus sources cultivated in al-Qaida and the Taliban—lent it an air of legitimacy. Initially ridiculed by mainstream media and various governments, al-Jazeera now is a main source for news from the region.
Researched and reported as another side to the story, Al-Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That Is Challenging the West shows that labeling al-Jazeera “pro-terrorist” may stem from its using gruesome videos sent in by...
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